CDT 2021: Day 62, McCormick Peak to Hwy 70/Encampment

You think you've seen this town clear through

A barn is painted to say Greetings from Wyoming

I don't know a thru-hiker who doesn't look forward to going into town after a few days on the trail. I certainly do. There are many reasons to be excited about it, even if you're spending just a few hours there. Time in town is a chance to refuel, refresh, and restore your body.

You can usually get a shower and do laundry, and those reasons alone make you feel ready for more hiking. Then, of course, is food and drink. When you don't have to worry about carrying it, you can consume extra to add back some calories you missed while on the trail.

DateMonday, June 14, 2021
WeatherWeather: Hazy and hot, with temperatures reaching to near 90
Trail ConditionsAscend to near 11,000 feet with large sections of snow, then descend to 9,900 feet
Today's Miles8.5
Trip Miles847.1

Top O' and I were heading into Encampment today. Though I anticipated it for the opportunities I just discussed, I didn't have quite the same amount of enthusiasm I usually do. Frankly, I had low expectations.

Encampment is a small town with fewer than 450 residents. A coffee shop, a couple of restaurants and bars, a motel, and two convenience stores account for most of the commercial business activity. Some were operating on limited schedules.

I soon discovered I had only looked at Encampment superficially. The town had more to offer than I expected.

Snow across the trail

I needed a little more time than Top O' did to get ready this morning, so I told him to go ahead without me. Based on what OT had said yesterday, it didn't seem we would have trouble hitching a ride into town.

Soon after I packed and left our snow-free patch of ground, I began walking on snow again. Because the temperature had dropped into the 30s overnight, the snow was firm enough to walk on without sinking. That condition didn't last long.

Leaving the shoulder of McCormick Peak, the trail began a gradual climb toward Bridger Peak. Both mountains are on the northern edge of a range called the Sierra Madre.

suncups

Within 30 minutes, I walked out of the canopy of trees. The snow was already beginning to soften as the temperature rose. So far, though, it wasn't soft enough to cause me to post-hole.

I had to walk across suncups, however. When the snow is formed into bowl-shaped depressions, the uneven indentations aren't easy to walk on. Softer snow made walking on them less difficult.

A view of Colorado from Wyoming

Where the trail entered a snow-free area, a gap in the trees allowed a good view in the direction of Colorado. One of the prominent peaks I saw was Hahns Peak. It stands at 10,823 feet with a 1,588-foot prominence.

The mountain was about 26 miles away from me. The trail will not lead me there, but I will walk within seven miles of it the day after tomorrow.

Looking toward Bridger Peak

The trail continued its gradual climb, and by 9:45 a.m., I was at the high point of the day. This spot was within 350 yards of Bridger Peak's summit, which stands 11,004 feet above sea level. The trail topped out at about 10,955 feet.

The snow and the climb didn't give me any trouble, but I noticed my breathing was a little more labored. It had been two weeks since I had climbed a mountain this high.

glacier lilies

I saw many glacier lilies when the trail began to descend from Bridger Peak.

There was much less snow on the way down. The walk would have been more enjoyable if I hadn't slipped and fallen in some mud. After picking myself up this time, I checked to make sure nothing fell out of my pack.

Wyoming Highway 70 near Battle Pass

I arrived at State Highway 70 at noon. There was no traffic, so I began to walk on the road toward Battle Pass. The trail followed the road to the top of the pass, and I decided that was probably a better place to hitch.

Just 1.4 miles due west of where I was walking was Battle Lake, which may or may not be the site of an important discovery. A local legend is told about Thomas Edison, who came to the Sierra Madre to fish and hunt in 1878. The trip itself has been well-documented, but claims about a discovery made here remain unconfirmed and seem improbable.

As the story goes, Edison became so frustrated with his fishing luck at the lake that he threw his bamboo pole into a campfire. Seeing how the ends of the pole glowed in the fire, he was supposedly inspired to use bamboo as a filament for the electric lightbulb.

Vacher's Bighorn Lodge

Within minutes of when I started walking on the road, a couple out for a weekend of boating stopped and offered to take me all the way into Encampment. They dropped me off at Vacher's Bighorn Lodge, which was where Top O' and I intended to stay. We had sent resupply boxes here.

The office was closed when I arrived, but when I took my phone out of airplane mode, I found a text message from Top O'. He said he left our room door unlocked so I could drop off my pack. He was at a restaurant next door.

The motel didn't look like much on the outside, with drab concrete block walls, peeling paint, and a faded sign. Our room was surprisingly clean and not nearly as shabby, however.

This was my first surprise at Encampment. From the appearance outside, I didn't expect to find a clean and comfortable room.

The DiVide Restaurant and Lounge

I found Top O' next door at The DiVide Restaurant and Lounge. This business seemed out of place, at least when compared to the motel, and was my second surprise. The decor was upscale, and the food was excellent. It was so good I decided to order a calzone to go and save it for dinner.

After returning to our room, I took a shower. There weren't any laundry facilities in the motel and no laundromat in town, so I had to wash out in the bathroom sink as much of the mud and sweat as I could from my clothes. I then spread them out on the walkway in front of our room. The afternoon sun was hot, and they dried quickly.

We didn't expect to find OT still in town, but he had decided to take a zero day. He was camping at the town's park. The restroom there didn't have a shower, so we let him use ours.

Gravity's resupply box

When the motel office reopened, I was able to pick up my resupply box.

Later, just as Top O' and I left our room to walk down to one of the town's two convenience stores, the motel owner saw us and offered a ride. I had presumed that the residents of the area knew little about the trail and had no interest in hikers, but that didn't turn out to be true.

When I saw the store, I finally found something about Encampment that didn't surprise me. Just as I expected, the store's food selection was limited to snacks and a small number of staples. I was glad I had decided to ask my wife to send me a resupply box.

Nothing shaking on Shakedown Street
Used to be the heart of town
Don't tell me this town ain't got no heart
You just got to poke around

You think you've seen this town clear through
(Well, well, well, you can never tell)
Nothing here could interest you
(Well, well, well, you can never tell)
It's not because you missed out
On the thing that we had to start
Maybe you had too much too fast
(Maybe you had too much too fast)
Maybe you had too much too fast
(Maybe you had too much too fast)
Maybe you had too much too fast
(Maybe you had too much too fast)
And just overplayed your part

Comments

"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.